Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain made an appearance on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace this morning and put his candidacy on full display for an electorate/viewing audience very much ready for a candidate to take command of the primary campaign. Opening the interview with a reference to his last appearance where he dropped the ball on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict saying "I'm exercising my right of return to your show." While obviously scripted - and a little lame - Cain once again demonstrated that he's a man not only comfortable in his own skin but also humble enough to own his missteps when they befall him.
I'll spare you the time of summarizing the rest of the interview here, and cut to the chase. For anyone watching, it was clear that the discussion derailed when Wallace brought up recent remarks Cain made in reference to a mosque being constructed in Murfreesboro, Tennessee - a city only a rush-hour commute from Nashville. Cain made an appearance in Middle Tennessee this week and directly voiced his opposition to the construction.
For those unawares of the happenings of suburban Tennessee, the mosque project there has mirrored the Ground Zero mosque debate both in its timeline and in its heated opposition. Folks in Murfreesboro who oppose construction have used the Ground Zero mosque as fuel to the fire, but the debate ultimately boils down to the fact that "the community" doesn't want it, and the "Muslim community" still wants to build it. Most believe the court system will make the final determination.
But back to Herman Cain - because who really cares about Murfreesboro, Tennesee; right?
Here's the portion of the interview:
"One of my guiding principles is that if you want to know the solution to the problem or if you want to understand the problem; go to the source closest to the problem. I talked to the people in that community, and here's their problem; and I sympathize with them. Our Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. Islam combines church and state. They're using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their mosque in that community and the people in that community do not like it. They disagree with it. Sharia law is what they are trying to infuse into our...
Wallace: Are you saying we should ban all Muslims from worshiping in this country?
Cain: No. I did not say that Chris. What I'm saying is American laws in American courts. That's what the people of Murfreesboro are saying. That's what people are saying all over this country.
Wallace: Having a mosque isn't gonna..
Cain: I happen to also know that it's not just about a religious mosque. There are other things going on based on talking to people closest to the problem. It's not just a mosque for religious purposes. This is what the people are objecting to.
Wallace: My question I guess is... this isn't Ground Zero in New York City. It's not hallowed ground. Don't Americans have a Right of whatever religion under the Constitution - which you speak so much about - to Free Speech and Freedom to worship.
Cain: To the people in Murfreesboro it is hallowed ground. They are objecting to the intentions of trying to get sharia law. That judge may have ruled, but this case isn't over with yet. I believe this case will go all the way to the Supreme Court. It's not hallowed ground; it's hallowed ground to people in Murfreesboro.
Wallace: Couldn't any community then say we don't want a mosque in our community?
Cain: They could say that but go back to the fundamental issue that the people are saying that they are objecting to. They're objecting to the fact that Islam is both a religion and a set of laws - sharia law. That's the difference between any one of our other religions that are just about religious purposes. The people in the community know best; and I happen to side with the people in the community.
Wallace: So you're saying any community if they want to ban a mosque?
Cain: Yes, they have the right to do that. That's not discriminating based upon religion - against their particular religion - there is an aspect of them building that mosque that doesn't get talked about; and the people in the community know what it is and they're talking about it.
The community- any community - has the "Right" to deny the "Muslim community" their ability to construct a mosque? Really? I mean... really really Mr. Cain?
Oh, you've talked to the people on the ground there and have intimate knowledge of the "real story." How bout sharing that "real story" Mr. Cain? What did you learn on your visit to Middle Tennessee? I'd love to know what you were told. It must have been something absolutely earth-shattering. I mean, if you're willing to ignore the First Amendment, it must have been something worth sharing with a national audience, no?
Terrorist activities? Ties to Al Qaeda? Evidence of a subversive plot to overthrow state or local government?
Fair questions; and you would be correct in the second assertion.
While I am a supporter and a fan of Herman Cain, I do believe today's interview has given me cause to reexamine that position. Not only am I an unapologetic "defender" of the First Amendment - from attacks from both the Left and the Right; I am also a resident of Tennessee. More accurately, I happen to live just minutes away from the proposed mosque construction site. I am part of "the community" that Herman Cain was talking about.
As a member of the represented "community", I can say without reservation that I have never been so misrepresented in my entire life. I haven't the slightest clue what the hell it is that Mr. Cain was talking about here. Yes, there are many who oppose the construction of this mosque, but they are anything but representative of their entire community.
And yes, I know the talking points and I have a pretty good understanding of the background and practices of those "behind the mosque" - I assume that is what Mr. Cain was referring to here when he attempted to hint that there was a deeper more sinister plot at work here. The group and their activities have been debated and discussed for quite some time, locally. While Murfreesboro, Tennessee may be a "new front" for this debate on the national scene, it is anything but new to Middle Tennessee. You can see my thoughts on the controversy here... Notice the date - August 24, 2010. The matter is anything but new.
And no, this is not the Ground Zero Mosque. There is no hallowed ground in jeopardy here. It's farm land on the outskirts of town. It's a piece of land that no one would take a second look at if it weren't the future home of a place of worship for a group of people who have been practicing their faith in this community for years - and if those people didn't also happen to be Muslim. My point - Mr. Cain's assertion that this is somehow "hallowed ground to the people of Murfreesboro" is laughable bordering on a blatant misrepresentation of the facts.
While I do not agree with much of what the mosque may represent or anything its supporters have done "in support" of groups, causes, or individuals hostile to the United States or its guiding principles; I wholeheartedly and un-apologetically support their "Right" to construct a place of worship. Frankly, I can't think of anything more un-American than a "community" attempting to restrict the Right to worship. And coming from this "community", I can't think of anything more absurd than a deeply religious "people" telling a portion of its population that they cannot worship as they so choose.
But again, who really cares about Murfreesboro, Tennessee; right? Cheap question by Chris Wallace, right? I know the Cain defenders will be out in full force and I'm sure my previous support for Mr. Cain will be washed away with the fact that I am so absolutely appalled by his Sunday remarks. I'm also very aware that sites like HuffPo and ThinkProgress will probably be the only places where I will find anyone who agrees with me; or at least will be willing to share their views. I get that; and I'm fine with that. Bring on the RINO assaults.
Despite that, I share this story and my thoughts with you without reservation, because last I checked it was among the many causes of conservatism to defend religion from all who would aim to do it harm; to uphold the Constitution and defend the First Amendment. Did I miss something? Did someone float around a memo addressing the change in our ideology and leave me off the distribution list?
Is Islam not a religion? If a "community" can tell a group of Muslims that they cannot construct a mosque, could another community not deny a group of Catholics the opportunity to construct a church? Could a community of atheists not deny all individuals the right to construct any places of worship?
Let's just be real about it folks. We're not far removed from a time when many feared that a Catholic President would be loyal to a Papacy in Rome. We still live in a time when many fear electing a Mormon to the nation's highest office. We are very much still living in a world where we are unable to address the real problems that plague our nation because we let overtly religious debates continue to drive the discussion and detract us from the underlying legitimate issues.
Constructing a church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee no more moves this country toward sharia law than building a Catholic Church takes us closer to ceding sovereignty to the Vatican. That said, if we continue to allow the preferred religious views of a majority population impose its will on those with less influence, are we really doing anything less detrimental than that which we aim to prevent? Should fear of one religious/social practice really drive us to impose another that flies counter to our Founding Principles?
I will continue to defer to the First Amendment. I may not like what my Muslim neighbors are doing; I may object to everything they stand for; but I wholeheartedly support their RIGHT to worship. I know Mr. Cain said he spoke to the folks in the Murfreesboro community, but I now very much question his "guiding principles" and his "approach to problem solving." As a member of that "community"; I would stake my reputation and my somewhat suspect "good name" on the fact that the people Mr. Cain spoke to were anything but reflective of the whole.
I am sincerely disappointed that Mr. Cain has decided to take his campaign in this direction. He has not only lost my support, he has now, regrettably, also lost my respect.